What to do with a cart and no horse?
March 23, 2015 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Hitch the cart to a dog, of course. Dogs (and sometimes goats) were used to pull small carts in much of Europe, usually by people who could not afford to keep horses. The heyday of these small dog-drawn carts was in the 19th century, when dog carts were commonly used in places like England, the Netherlands, and Belgium to deliver milk and sometimes other groceries. In fact, the Belgian Army even experimented with dog-drawn carts toting machine guns during WWI. Previously.

Dog carting was an early target of English animal welfare groups, who banned draft dogs in London in 1839 and extended that ban to the entire UK in 1911. This movement may, however, have been based partly upon classist grounds, as draft dogs were primarily used by the poor and dogs were primarily kept as pets by the middle and upper classes.

Now, with the resurgence of sports like urban mushing and bikejoring, dog carting is making something of a comeback (at least in North America). Indeed, the breed associations of many of the breeds which were originally used for carting (including the Bernese Mountain Dog, the St. Bernard, and the Rottweiler) now promote and sponsor AKC draft dog events.
posted by sciatrix (30 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Dogs have long been used to give motive power to devices: history forgotten dog, the Turnspit.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 7:19 PM on March 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

Just never try catcarting.
posted by fallingbadgers at 7:29 PM on March 23, 2015 [10 favorites]

Wow, that messybeast site is great. Go up into the indexes and they've got a ton more pictures of historical animals.

Also I like the caption "Once it is fully grown, it would not be safe to harness a lion to give cart rides to children." Yes. I agree, caption.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:34 PM on March 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

MeFi is oddly full of cart knowledge today.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:42 PM on March 23, 2015

I blame myself...
posted by Naberius at 7:45 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Example of something the messybeast site has that you don't have: draught zebras.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:46 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was totally riffing off Iridic's excellent post--it was either link the Messybeast page and nerd-out in his thread, or spend half an hour procrastinating by collecting a mess of dog carting links and swearing about how I couldn't find many other good online sources for the RSPCA history bit. My thesis proposal revisions is overdue and must go out tomorrow, so it was super clear which I had to do.

In general, Messybeast is amazing. At some point later on I will link some of the hybrid crosses pages and encourage you all to think about what you call it when you cross a puma and a leopard. Maybe in six months when you've all had a chance to forget, ha. And of course, previously...
posted by sciatrix at 7:50 PM on March 23, 2015

How convenient! I spent yesterday being a steward at a St. Bernard draft dog test. That picture is from the mile-long Freight Haul; the dogs also have to pull a cart through an obstacle course, and perform ordinary obedience tasks while in harness, all answering only to voice commands (at the more advanced levels).

That lead dog, an 8-year-old bitch, has more letters after her name than my entire family. She's a smart, strong, sweet girl, who really likes to pull a cart.
posted by suelac at 7:54 PM on March 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

Example of something the messybeast site has that you don't have: draught zebras.

That link (and all the photographs) is amazing. But I am still wondering why, if zebras can be domesticated for riding and pulling carts, why is it almost never done? Of course, the piece ends on a depressing note:

On the Quagga Horace Hayes relates: '... Up to the end of the first half of last century it was found in immense numbers in South Africa, and appears to have become extinct about the year 1870. The last specimen in England died in the London Zoological Gardens in 1864. It was a strong, somewhat heavily built animal, slow of pace for a wild member of the Equidae, and comparatively docile. " A pair of imported Quaggas were in the early part of the last century driven about London in a phaeton by Sheriff Parkins. Lieut. Col. C. Hamilton Smith, in his unpublished volume on Equidae, 1841 states that he drove one in a gig, and that its mouth was as delicate as that of a horse. He further stated that it had better quarters and was more horse-like even than Burchell's zebra, and added: 'It is unquestionably the best calculated for domestication, both as regards strength and docility' " (Tegetmeier and Sutherland) Owing to its deficiency in speed and alertness, and to the value set on its hide by the Boers and on its flesh by their Hottentot servants, it was finally exterminated by the settlers and natives. No attempt was made by naturalists to save this animal from extinction.'

They figured out which zebra variety was the best for domestication, they recognized the importance across the colonies because of tsetse fly resistance, and then they shrugged and did nothing while it was exterminated? That is so stereotypical of the time, and so awful.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:59 PM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Back to the dogs though, it is really fascinating to think about logistics of past times, and what conditions make dog carting a logical solution as opposed to other animals. I wonder if the people who had cart dogs treated them as working animals to be kept in a barn/outbuilding or if they served a dual role as pets/warm bodies in the home. Dogs would take less initial outlay, presumably, and less maintenance (no shoeing, etc).
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:03 PM on March 23, 2015

with the resurgence of sports like urban mushing and bikejoring,

At least once a day, someone will come past my house on inline skates or a skateboard, getting towed by an obviously very happy dog. I'm glad that I don't have to see dogs being worked hard, but it's great to see a happy dog racing by towing a person.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:03 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just never try catcarting.

There's a photo of a lion cart towards the bottom of the first link, with little kids in tow.
posted by Brian B. at 8:07 PM on March 23, 2015

It is interesting remembering old car models named after these horse drawn rides. See, Nash Rambler Landau.
posted by Oyéah at 8:19 PM on March 23, 2015

An older version of the dog cart idea would be the dog travois, which Native Americans used as their primary "pack animal" in the Great Plains before the introduction of horses.
posted by barchan at 8:20 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

There's a photo of a lion cart towards the bottom of the first link, with little kids in tow.

Or "meals on wheels" as they're known in the lion community.
posted by yoink at 8:24 PM on March 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

After seeing those St. Bernards with their big metal milk jugs, I really want to see a chihuahua with a proportional sized dog cart, hauling a quart of milk.
posted by idiopath at 8:28 PM on March 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

Not to be confused with dogfort.
posted by BungaDunga at 8:46 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

My bloke's grandfather was fascinated by seeing dogs at work in the fields of France during WW1, writing home that "bakers and milkman in many cases run their wares round in little carts drawn by one or two dogs, and at the farms the dog earns his keep by working a treadmill to churn the butter". This was in 1917 near Armentieres.
posted by andraste at 9:42 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dip Flash, my son used to board behind his Great Dane. You haven't really kissed pavement until you've been behind a GD seeing his first urban deer.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:46 PM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Three dog cart , the album.
posted by boilermonster at 10:22 PM on March 23, 2015

I wonder how many chihuahuas or small dogs like Maltese it would take to effectively pull an adult in a cart.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:32 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sangermaine: the answer to this must be found, for science.
posted by idiopath at 10:37 PM on March 23, 2015

here are some bernese mountain dogs pulling carts full of puppies

bernies were (probably still are sometimes!) kept as farm dogs, so the whole thing where you can also hitch them up to a cart in addition to their other duties was probably pretty useful. they're pretty chill about it. they are good dogs.
posted by NoraReed at 10:46 PM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Obligatory Three Men on the Bummel:
For your German does not encourage laziness in any living thing. He likes to see his dogs work, and the German dog loves work; of that there can be no doubt. The life of the English dog must be a misery to him. Imagine a strong, active, and intelligent being, of exceptionally energetic temperament, condemned to spend twenty-four hours a day in absolute idleness! How would you like it yourself? No wonder he feels misunderstood, yearns for the unattainable, and gets himself into trouble generally.

Now the German dog, on the other hand, has plenty to occupy his mind. He is busy and important. Watch him as he walks along harnessed to his milk cart. No churchwarden at collection time could feel or look more pleased with himself. He does not do any real work; the human being does the pushing, he does the barking; that is his idea of division of labour. What he says to himself is:

“The old man can’t bark, but he can shove. Very well.”

The interest and the pride he takes in the business is quite beautiful to see. Another dog passing by makes, maybe, some jeering remark, casting discredit upon the creaminess of the milk. He stops suddenly, quite regardless of the traffic.

“I beg your pardon, what was that you said about our milk?”

“I said nothing about your milk,” retorts the other dog, in a tone of gentle innocence. “I merely said it was a fine day, and asked the price of chalk.”

“Oh, you asked the price of chalk, did you? Would you like to know?”

“Yes, thanks; somehow I thought you would be able to tell me.”

“You are quite right, I can. It’s worth—”

“Oh, do come along!” says the old lady, who is tired and hot, and anxious to finish her round.

“Yes, but hang it all; did you hear what he hinted about our milk?”

“Oh, never mind him! There’s a tram coming round the corner: we shall all get run over.”

“Yes, but I do mind him; one has one’s proper pride. He asked the price of chalk, and he’s going to know it! It’s worth just twenty times as much—”

“You’ll have the whole thing over, I know you will,” cries the old lady, pathetically, struggling with all her feeble strength to haul him back. “Oh dear, oh dear! I do wish I had left you at home.”

The tram is bearing down upon them; a cab-driver is shouting at them; another huge brute, hoping to be in time to take a hand, is dragging a bread cart, followed by a screaming child, across the road from the opposite side; a small crowd is collecting; and a policeman is hastening to the scene.

“It’s worth,” says the milk dog, “just twenty-times as much as you’ll be worth before I’ve done with you.”

“Oh, you think so, do you?”

“Yes, I do, you grandson of a French poodle, you cabbage-eating—”

“There! I knew you’d have it over,” says the poor milk-woman. “I told him he’d have it over.”

But he is busy, and heeds her not. Five minutes later, when the traffic is renewed, when the bread girl has collected her muddy rolls, and the policeman has gone off with the name and address of everybody in the street, he consents to look behind him.

“It is a bit of an upset,” he admits. Then shaking himself free of care, he adds, cheerfully, “But I guess I taught him the price of chalk. He won’t interfere with us again, I’m thinking.”

“I’m sure I hope not,” says the old lady, regarding dejectedly the milky road.

But his favourite sport is to wait at the top of the hill for another dog, and then race down. On these occasions the chief occupation of the other fellow is to run about behind, picking up the scattered articles, loaves, cabbages, or shirts, as they are jerked out. At the bottom of the hill, he stops and waits for his friend.

“Good race, wasn’t it?” he remarks, panting, as the Human comes up, laden to the chin. “I believe I’d have won it, too, if it hadn’t been for that fool of a small boy. He was right in my way just as I turned the corner. You noticed him? Wish I had, beastly brat! What’s he yelling like that for? Because I knocked him down and ran over him? Well, why didn’t he get out of the way? It’s disgraceful, the way people leave their children about for other people to tumble over. Halloa! did all those things come out? You couldn’t have packed them very carefully; you should see to a thing like that. You did not dream of my tearing down the hill twenty miles an hour? Surely, you knew me better than to expect I’d let that old Schneider’s dog pass me without an effort. But there, you never think. You’re sure you’ve got them all? You believe so? I shouldn’t ‘believe’ if I were you; I should run back up the hill again and make sure. You feel too tired? Oh, all right! don’t blame me if anything is missing, that’s all.”

He is so self-willed. He is cock-sure that the correct turning is the second on the right, and nothing will persuade him that it is the third. He is positive he can get across the road in time, and will not be convinced until he sees the cart smashed up. Then he is very apologetic, it is true. But of what use is that? As he is usually of the size and strength of a young bull, and his human companion is generally a weak-kneed old man or woman, or a small child, he has his way. The greatest punishment his proprietor can inflict upon him is to leave him at home, and take the cart out alone. But your German is too kind-hearted to do this often.

That he is harnessed to the cart for anybody’s pleasure but his own it is impossible to believe; and I am confident that the German peasant plans the tiny harness and fashions the little cart purely with the hope of gratifying his dog. In other countries—in Belgium, Holland and France—I have seen these draught dogs ill-treated and over-worked; but in Germany, never.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:51 PM on March 23, 2015 [10 favorites]

The fear of the spread of rabies, believed to be exacerbated by overworked dogs, led to a ban on all draught dogs ... Often children replaced the dogs in pulling the carts, there being no laws against child labour.

Hey kids, want to have some fun?
posted by pwnguin at 11:28 PM on March 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

I think it's funny that it was banned by rich people who didn't want poor people to use an animal they saw as a pet as a work animal. But now I see this and think, "Hey, that's a job my dog could do! Dogs LOVE having a job to do! I'll bet she'd have fun with this and it would be great exercise."

Just yesterday we ordered a backpack for her that she can wear and carry a little weight in when I take her for walks around the neighborhood so that she feels like she has a job other than hunting rabbits and warning me that a mailman is coming (she is fine with mail-women though) and get a little more exercise out of it. If she does well with that, we might try a cart some day.
posted by VTX at 6:07 AM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

My wife pines to own a Bernese Mountain Dog but everyone I know that has owned one has seen the dog die to cancer. We've got an eighteen year old Maine Coon that's likely going to die and it's destroying my wife. I can't imagine what terror it would be for her to lose a six year old dog.
posted by Ber at 8:30 AM on March 24, 2015

Often children replaced the dogs in pulling the carts, there being no laws against child labour.

And it being such a perfectly Victorian thing to do. Note this excerpt from Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Speckled Band."

“You must not fear,” said he soothingly, bending forward and patting her forearm. “We shall soon set matters right, I have no doubt. You have come in by train this morning, I see.”

“You know me, then?”

“No, but I observe the second half of a return ticket in the palm of your left glove. You must have started early, and yet you had a good drive in an urchin-cart, along heavy roads, before you reached the station.”

The lady gave a violent start and stared in bewilderment at my companion.

“There is no mystery, my dear madam,” said he, smiling. “The left arm of your jacket is spattered with mud in no less than seven places. The marks are perfectly fresh. There is no vehicle save an urchin-cart which throws up mud in that way, and then only when you sit on the left-hand side of the driver and annoy the urchins.”
posted by Naberius at 8:56 AM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Neat link! My mom, who is Swiss, used to tell me about her first dog, who doubled as the means to pull the milk cartons up and down the hill to the communal cold room. So in case you were wondering, dogs were still used into the '60s at least, in Europe. I would bet they are still used in some places.
posted by switcheroo at 10:14 AM on March 24, 2015

I always try to sit on the right-hand side of the urchin cart.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 11:24 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

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